So, how might it impact you, as a Symbian user who also wants some access to Google services, i.e. Gmail and Google Contacts/Calendar?
Let's take Contacts and Calendar first. There are several ways in which you might currently be syncing your PIM data:
- With an online service other than Google, such as a corporate Exchange server, an online SyncML host; or with a local desktop Windows PC, typically running Outlook, or a Mac (typically using iSync). Obviously, you're not affected, since you're not syncing with Google at all.
- Using SyncML to Google, usually after manual set up several years ago. This will stop working at the end of January, when Google's SyncML servers are switched off.
- Using Mail for Exchange, either (for older devices) using set up instructions such as those here, or (for newer devices) by simply setting up your Gmail as an 'Exchange' service and popping m.google.com in as the server name. If this is already set up then you can carry on accessing Google Contacts and Calendar after the end of January, but new 'set ups' won't be possible. So if you wipe or replace your device then you won't be able to use the same technique.
- Using a third party go-between, usually the data sync specialists Nuevasync. This accesses Google's PIM data via other means and presents it to your phone via Exchange ActiveSync. The main benefit in the past has been the support for multiple calendars. Because no Exchange access is involved at Google's end, nothing will change after January.
So, if you've been syncing to Google and using SyncML or Exchange explicitly need to set up (or re-set up) a device after January 2013 then you'll need to think again. The Nuevasync solution is a neat and clean one and, if anything, your PIM sync experience will get better, but note that Nuevasync does cost around £10/year.
Gmail is slightly different in that there are more access vectors for it. As above, if you're picking up Gmail via an Exchange mailbox then it'll carry on working happily, but you won't be able to set it up again if you wipe or replace your device after January 2013.
Other ways to access Gmail, none of which are affected by the changes, include:
- Nuevasync Premium (around £20/year, a superset of the standard package, essentially Nuevasync gathers your Gmail for you using its own access to Google and then pushes emails to you)
- Standard IMAP access - this is the default on most current Symbian phones when you pick 'Google' or 'Gmail' from the Email wizard. Unfortunately, 'IMAP push' doesn't currently work from Google to Symbian, so there's the small limitation to checking and collecting email at a maximum frequency of every 5 minutes. Not a huge issue for most, though.
- Using the (Java) Gmail client (archived here) - it's not officially supported by Google anymore, but still works perfectly. You get a lot of Gmail 'extra' features (like 'starring') but the interface is a little primitive at times.
- Using the mobile Gmail web interface (mail.google.com) - again functional, but a stilted interface indeed by 2013 standards.
In the short term then, for those wanting either (or both) Gmail or Google Contacts/Calendar sync, Google's 'Winter cleanup' of their services is unlikely to have a major impact on most users here. For anyone who is affected, either at the end of January or at some point after that when a device has to be replaced, at least there are several valid options, both free and paid for.
It's also entirely possible, of course, that by that point you might even be leaning towards reliance on another platform and ecosystem, whether it be Microsoft's or Apple's. There's more to online services than Google, you know!
For its part, Google has valid business reasons for the changes - not having to pay Microsoft a license fee every time some new user sets up an Exchange ActiveSync connection is the main one, we suspect.
Comments welcome here on how much (or little) this will affect you, with your own preferred set up!